Seth Gordon’s Horrible Bosses is another one of those comedies that came out of nowhere and ended up being quite surprising thanks to the recent tradition of misleading trailers. The trailer for the film was only somewhat promising, not really showing much in the way of comedy and not raising my expectations a whole lot.
It turns out though that this was a good thing. Most trailers for comedies go way too far and end up spoiling all the best parts. The trailer for Horrible Bosses on the other hand, while it gives you a taste of what to expect, there’s much more where that came from.
The plot involves three everyday guys, Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), who all hate their jobs due to their bosses. Nick is annoyed by his boss Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) not giving him a promotion he’s worked incredibly hard for. Dale is constantly sexually harassed by his boss Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston) at the dentist’s office he works at. As for Kurt, his workplace has recently been taken over by Bobby (Colin Farrell), the son of the former owner (Donald Sutherland). The problem is that Bobby is extremely irresponsible and doesn’t care if the company gets run into the ground or not.
One night at a bar, the three men start to discuss hypothetically killing their bosses. It’s just talk at first but after the harassment continues, they decide to pull it off for real. In order to do this however, they decide they need to hire someone, which leads them to Dean (Jamie Foxx). Dean won’t actually commit the murders but he does offer them advice such as not leaving any trace behind and having them kill each others’ bosses. With Dean’s wise words in mind, Nick, Dale and Kurt go about trying to figure out the best way to put an end to their troubles once and for all.
Those of you who are big film fans will probably recognize the bit about having the main characters kill each others’ bosses as a direct reference to Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. It’s also directly referenced in two hilarious scenes by the characters, one of whom refers to it as “that Danny DeVito movie” (a joke that film buffs will get well before it’s explained), showing that this film is not above mocking the classics, though the plot could also be seen as a small homage to the master of suspense.
One of the reasons that this film works so well is due to the level of comedy that the writers chose to use. Where many films nowadays will go for full-on raunchiness, Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan Goldstein opt to go for a blend of one-liners, sight gags, and only a touch of raunchiness. It results in the film being really funny instead of just being in bad taste, or simply unfunny, a la the Adam Sandler level of humor.
Other parts of the comedy that work well are the interesting situations that the story puts the characters in. We get to experience just how horrible their bosses are as we watch Nick, Dale and Kurt go through their normal work day trying their best to deal with their hellish bosses. Scenes like the boys seeking out Dean in the dark and dangerous bar or gathering intelligence on their bosses by staking out their homes are great springing points for a lot of the film’s humor. The premise really lends itself well to the comedy here and it’s pulled off very effectively.
A great cast, featuring two Oscar winners and several great comedians, was assembled for Horrible Bosses. Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis have great chemistry together and really make you feel for their situation. Sure, their plan is a little extreme, but it brings in a lot of laughs and works well as the film’s plot.
Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell do a wonderful job as well at playing complete jerks who seem to have no scruples with the way they are behaving toward their employees. While it would have been nice if Foxx had had a bigger role, he still gets his fair share of laughs.
The only somewhat bothersome issue that the film had was that the humor was a little lacking in the second half. The first half seemed like it was nonstop laughs, but when it came to the second half, the laughs were still there but they weren’t as frequent. The second half seemed more concerned with wrapping up the plot than with getting laughs, which is fine due to the interesting situations that the characters are put in, but it would have been even better if they had been able to keep a constant level of humor throughout.
With Horrible Bosses and Bad Teacher, that makes two decent comedies in a row, something that seems to happen very rarely nowadays. Most comedies of late (The Hangover Part II, Your Highness) merely seem to want to gross people out or just be as lewd as possible. It’s refreshing to see that some writers still like to turn an intriguing situation into one where laughs can flow naturally as opposed to attempting to force them out with extremely bad jokes. If only more comedy writers could see it this way.